Was the West's Intervention in Libya Justified?
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AMY GOODMAN: And then, this is President Obama talking about his broad support for the pro-democracy movements in North Africa and the Middle East.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I believe that this movement of change cannot be turned back and that we must stand alongside those people who believe in the same core principles that have guided us through many storms: our opposition to violence directed at one’s own people; our support for a set of universal rights, including the freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders; our support for governments that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people. Born as we are out of a revolution by those who longed to be free, we welcome the fact that history is on the move in the Middle East and North Africa and that young people are leading the way, because wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: President Obama last night, talking about the justification for intervention in Libya and going beyond. Professor Vijay Prashad of Trinity College, your response?
VIJAY PRASHAD: Well, wherever people would like to be free, unless they live in Bahrain, Yemen and, you know, for a long time, even in Egypt, until the tide was too strong for the Americans to push it back.
You know, the resolutions that the United Nations passed—1970 was the first resolution, and then 1973—are deeply ambiguous resolutions. They got the support of the Arab League. They got the support tacitly, although they abstained of the Chinese and the Russians, because they said that there was going to be no attempt at assisting the rebels, there was only going to be the obligation to protect civilians. So, President Obama has been playing a tightrope between "we are protecting civilians" and "we want to get rid of Gaddafi."
The second thing, get rid of Gaddafi or give assistance to the rebels, is contrary to the U.N. Resolution 1973, and it should be borne in mind that as much as he said we will not commit ground troops, the United States has already committed ground forces. These may not be boots on the ground, but they’re the AC-130 aircraft and the A-10 aircraft, which are both low-flying ground troop support aircrafts. These are not to create a no-fly zone; these are to attack ground troops. So the United States has already taken a position in the middle of a civil war. You know, it has already established that it is, in a sense, the armed wing of the rebels.
So, in that sense, President Obama not once in his speech mentioned the rebels themselves. Like Juan, he spoke of the people versus Gaddafi. And I think that that might be too restricting or too general, perhaps, of a framework to understand this. Now, I, too, believe that there is a broad swath of opinion against Gaddafi, but I think that what this intervention has done is it’s narrowed options. And it’s not that two or three people are controlling the entire dynamic, but it is their faction because they have very close ties now with the principal military power in operation in Libya. It is because of their close ties to the principal military power that their hand is strengthened against the other people in the rebellion. We have seen this over and over again during the moment of so-called humanitarian intervention, that sometimes the worst elements take over a popular movement because they have the closest links to imperial forces. You know, there is a broad movement, and that broad movement is going to be sidelined. It’s very interesting that President Obama never talked about the rebels. He only kept indicating the endgame, which is that Gaddafi must go, that itself in contravention to U.N. Resolution 1973. I found it a very peculiar speech. There was no mention of Bahrain, no mention of the Saudi troops crossing the causeway into Manama, no mention of their quest for freedom.